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Winter Excursion: Restaurants & Things to Do in Beaver Creek CO

Ice sculpture at the entrance of the Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa, Beaver Creek

Passionate skier Pete Seibert thought he may never walk—much less ski—again. While fighting the Nazis in Italy during WWII as a member of the 10th Mountain Division of the U.S. Army, he suffered debilitating injuries to his right knee cap.

So he tried something different: hotel management. Seibert completed the L’Ecole Hotelier de Lausanne program in Switzerland, then returned to his beloved Colorado, where he had trained with the army before going to battle.

One day, he and a friend decided to scale an impressive, unnamed mountain two hours west of Denver, best known by local sheep who grazed its rolling hills occupied by farmers.

Upon reaching its apex after a seven-hour trek, Seibert had a vision: build a world-class ski resort inspired by the architecture and winter ski culture of Switzerland, where he had trained as a hotelier. He decided to name the mountain Vail, perhaps due to its resemblance to a wedding veil—its ethereal, romantic quality when snowcapped with powder during the winter months.

Ski Resorts

60 years later, the Vail —including its lesser-known sibling Beaver Creek 10 minutes west–remains one of the most sought-after ski destinations in the U.S. Some 300 feet of annual snowfall does make for unbeatable ski conditions, but the area’s undeniable charm continues to secure its allure. Stunning vistas. Hotels with Swiss chalet facades. Luxury art galleries. High end clothing designers. And lots of restaurants. You’ll be kept busy with plenty of things to do in Vail and Beaver Creek, CO for a winter getaway.

The Landscape—Nature For One and All

It could be argued that the Vail experience is limited to those few who can afford the expense of a lavish vacation—the hotel, food, ski rental and lift ticket expenses all considered–especially during Christmas, Hanukkah and winter holiday season when hotel rates are at an all-time annual high. The classic Dickensian critique is such that in A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrouge evolved from a spendthrift banker to an empathetic creature offering gestures of kindness to the poor as a metaphor for Charles Dickens’ call for economic justice.     

Vail Valley, CO

While the expense of a resort vacation to Vail Valley is certainly a reality, the stark, open vastness of the Rockies Mountains defies the notion of elitism. Pure, open stretch of land is a soothing, awe-inspiring visual experience available for all to see. The sparsity of development along highway 70 for the 100 or so miles leading West from Denver to the Vail region further accentuates this sense of nature’s selfless generosity; no more than small patches of buildings constructed in warm earth tones sprinkle the roadside.  

Along the way, the shades of stone transition from slate gray to sepia to rusty bronze. And the shapes of the landscape evolve as well, from undulating, rounded pillows to sharp peaks and back again—all snow capped with soft, froth-like powder that evokes the warm comfort of 500-thread count sheets and triple-layered cotton comforters.

Beaver Creek Ski Conditions

Trail Map and Model of Beaver Creek Mountain & Village

Skiing on Beaver Creek Mountain is equally as inviting. On Christmas Day, the crowds were minimal; there were little to no lines to enter the ski lifts. Once on the top of the mountain, groups of families and friends—many with young children—navigated their way down the trails without bumping elbows.

Donned in my cruelty-free Save the Duck winter coat, I separated from the ambitious skiers in my family, and wound my way down on the Cinch Run, which circumvents the entire main section in a horizontal zig zag shape. At times, I found myself utterly alone, sliding along the groomed path to nothing more than the sounds of metal scraping against snow and my rapid breathing. I could see the specks of downhill skiers swooping along in the distance. Rather than an intrusion on nature, my presence felt like a welcomed addition—nature sharing its sacred gifts with me.

Me, atop Beaver Creek Mountain

The height—some 11,000 feet—felt like a monstrosity compared to our usual experience skiing at Catamount, Butternut and Jiminy Peak in the Berkshires, MA. (By comparison, Vail Mountain has a similar height.)

The trail map was a feat to conquer, with countless side runs, quarter mountain lifts and gondolas that could easily lead one astray to sections far reaches from ones starting point and attempted destination.  We downloaded the Epic Mix App before arriving and logged in with our Epic Pass lift ticket numbers. The digital map on our iPhones proved invaluable–it also has a find my friend feature; we couldn’t figure out how to activate it, but used the iPhone Find My app to track each other on the mountain.   

The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa: Ski in-Ski Out Hotel

Christmas at The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa, Vail Valley, CO

We stayed at the Westin, an eco-certified Marriott property located at the bottom of Beaver Creek Mountain. The property has a ski shop, ski valet and ski in-ski out gondola, which makes the ski experience with children/teenagers easy and stress-free.

During our stay, the driveway featured a stunning 20-foot ice sculpture of a bear and a wolf on a pedestal howling at a crescent moon. Our suite overlooked the sculpture, which was lit up after dark, and we feasted our eyes every evening on the luminous sight contoured by the black night.

Christmas in the lobby of the Westin

The lobby of the hotel was stunning during Christmas; the upscale lounge area had generous amounts of seating and continually running stone-framed gas fireplace, and featured several festively decorated trees, and evergreen branches and lighting framing the railways.  An electric menorah—our cup of cultural tea—sat placed on a side table near the fireplace, which was lit for two nights during our stay because the last two nights of Hanukkah happened to fall during Christmas this year.   Worth mentioning, the staff at the resort—from servers to cleaners to valets—were all unfailingly friendly and welcoming.    

For those seeking more privacy, space or working with a different budget, Beaker Creek and areas in Vail off the mountain offer many other housing options, including affordable room and apartment rentals with shuttle bus transportation to the mountain and town centers.  

Vail & Beaver Creek: Finding Vegan Food

For someone who chooses vegan and vegetarian food, Vail isn’t exactly the epicenter of progressive cuisine. I had scrolled through restaurant menus online before arriving, as any prepared vegan would do. I didn’t have a plethora of options, but this healthy foodie would make it work. To start, I packed in my suitcase 8-ounce containers of Not Milk that I added to my daily morning coffee or tea. And I kept a stash of NuGo Slim plant-based protein bars in the room, which I do at all times when I travel.

Stoke and Rye

Stoke & Rye, The Westin

This upscale restaurant located in the Westin Hotel offers gorgeous maintain views and chic dining. A few items on the menu created by chef Richard Sandoval were clearly marked vegan—the potato soup and Impossible burger (not creative but I’ll take it). I also ordered the potatoes 3 ways without the oxtail sauce, and hubby also ordered the beet salad and spinach ravioli, which were both vegetarian but not vegan. We enjoyed the food, friendly service, and stunning views that faced the earthen rolling hills behind Beaver Creek.    

The LookOut

A sports bar with a wine and spirits and food menu called The Lookout was located on the right land side the lobby of the Westin. I ordered the sweet potatoes fries, which were served quickly, extra crispy and piping hot.

Vail Village

Gore Creek Drive, Vail Village, CO

Long gone are the grazing sheep and scattered farms of what is now dubbed Vail—Seibert’s vision has cemented its presence and evolved into the charming European-inspired town he had imagined. The storefronts all echo Swiss/German influences: half-timber style with exposed beams, pitched roofs and front-facing gables. A tight labyrinth of narrow cobble stone streets are lined with clothing shops—ranging from high end boutiques, name brand stores like Patagonia and more informal touristy T-shirt shops–restaurants, cafes, delis and dessert spots. Cluttered along the shops are hotels and condominiums—as many as could be squeezed into the area of less than five square miles.    

La Bottega

We dined at this highly popular Italian restaurant—possibly one of the most well-known in Vail—on Christmas night. While not entirely vegan-friendly, the menu had several vegetarian pasta dishes, and one bean appetizer marked as vegan. I ordered—as I often do—broccoli and spinach off the menu. The server at La Bogetta was very accommodating and brought generous portions of the sautéed green vegetables.  

Yama Sushi

Honorable mention goes to Yama Sushi, a small Japanese restaurant within a short walk from La Bottega, which offers several vegan options on the menu, including two impressive vegetable combination sushi rolls called the Veggie Shred and Singapore.

At/Near Denver International Airport

Bread & Salt

For a quick diner-style breakfast or lunch on your way to or from the airport about 30 minutes from Vail is a cozy local spot in the town of Frisco called Bread & Salt. The menu features locally sourced ingredients with a few vegetable and potato sides, and a burrito that could be made vegan. The coffee is excellent and can be made with soy milk.

Beyond Meat Orange Chicken at Panda Express at the Denver International Airport

The Denver International Airport has a number of healthy, filling vegan meal options with plant-based protein. Panda Express–we went to the location in the West Terminal–serves plant-based Beyond Meat Orange Chicken with low mein and broccoli.

Freshen Fresh Food Studio offers a hearty burrito bowl with plant-based meat, rice, beans, corn, red onions and lettuce.

On my flight home, United served Biscoff cookies, a mainstream indulgence for vegans that are made without butter or eggs. I didn’t go hungry that day.

Spa, Yoga & Wellness

The Westin has three incredible outdoor hot tubs with mountain facing views open until 10 pm. It also has a dedicated yoga room with stunning rose-like lotus on the back wall, fresh towels and an equipment room with yoga mats, blocks and pillows.

The yoga room was unoccupied and available for guests to use. I made myself comfortable in the space for a good hour, stretching out the kicks from a rough half day of skiing (about all I could manage). I worked on bound half-moon, which I held for a good 10 seconds.  A painted pink lotus can inspire wonders. The wellness area also included a gym and spa.

Final Thoughts

The evolving visual and wellness landscape of the Vail ski area makes for a refreshing, nurturing winter destination–ski or not–especially during the Christmas season. The stunning mountain range, welcoming atmosphere, cozy town center and wellness features were all accentuated by the festive décor. While I may not be religious or even Christian, experiencing Christmas in Vail can be a religious experience in and of itself—warmth, bustle and beauty wrapped in a memorable mental bow.    \

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Things to Do in Beaver Creek and Vail: Resources

Vail Ski Resort

Vail Resort Hours & Mountain Info | Vail Ski Resort

Vail Village

Vail Villages | Lionshead Village | Vail Village (discovervail.com)

Beaver Creek Ski Resort

Colorado Skiing & Snowboard | Beaver Creek Resort

The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa

Hotel in Vail Valley | The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa, Avon, Vail Valley (marriott.com)

Stoke & Rye

STOKE & RYE (stokeandrye.com)

La Bogetta

Home Page – La Bottega (labottegavail.com)

Yama Sushi

Yama Sushi (yamasushivail.com)

Bread & Salt

401 E Main St., Frisco, CO 80443

Breakfast Near Me | Breakfast Restaurant in Frisco, CO (breadandsaltfrisco.com)

Freshen Fresh Food Studio

Freshens | Freshens

Panda Express

Order Panda Express | A Fast Casual Chinese Restaurant | Panda Express Chinese Restaurant

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